Monday, August 5, 2013

Keeping it Real

Remember affirmations? Back then, it seemed everyone had a positive statement or two that they repeated throughout the day in the hope of becoming a better person or just getting stuff they wanted.  They, the affirmations, can be found tucked in old wallets and pockets.  Little pieces of paper that said things like: I am beautiful and worthwhile and deserving.  I am the master of my life and I am making a beautiful day.  I am walking step by step towards my goal.  Positive thinking, yes, but also a bit of magic.  These sacred incantations, not you, would do the work needed to be done to change your life.  Alas.

There are words, however, that can change life if one is thoughtful and willing to work for new behaviors.  I have a few favorite mantras (sorry) one of which I have found to be powerful in my life and in the lives of clients.  It is: Make it small. The remark your partner or friend made, the need to ask for a raise, the dozen chores you have on your to-to-list.  Make your reaction smallNo need to have a fit because your partner has a mean moment, no need to play over and over in your mind what your boss will say, no reason to treat yourself like an ox in order to get it all done today, everyday.  People lie to themselves.  And the biggest lies are about making things BIG. More messes and tangles occur because things get blown out of proportion.  Exaggeration is a bad habit that serves many bad functions.  Here are a few:

It helps you worry and if you worry enough it will lessen the blow when it arrives.  No, that's magic.

It is used to express feelings, especially negative ones.  If I exaggerate my pain, physical or emotional, it will be better understood how much I suffer.  No, people will just want to get away from you.

It helps put other people in the wrong.  No.  People will not see their flaws because your words are inaccurate and they will fight with you about the inaccuracies.

Lately, in service of learning Spanish and also for fun, I've been watching tela novelas which, like American soap operas, give  lessons in exaggerated reactions.  If you crave drama and misery, don't make it small. Make everything big ...  but you will need a therapist.

For more about this topic see LIES: The Truth about the Self-Deception That Limits Your Life, "Make it Small," p.14.